The backlash against NFTs has been brewing ever since the first JPEGs hit the market late last year and fetched eye-opening sums. Detractors called them a fraud, the sequel to the Initial Coin Offering bubble that popped the last great crypto boom in 2018. Critics said you can right-click and save NFTs, so what makes them so unique? Others said they contribute to global warming.
But on Nov. 8 things took a more definitive turn when Jason Citron, the CEO of Discord, teased an integration with the crypto wallet, MetaMask, on Twitter. While his proposal garnered support within crypto, opposition to his proposal hit like a tsunami.
“I cannot stress enough that NFT’s are a scam made by a group of the worst people in my field and should be viewed as a money laundering pyramid scheme burning the planet away,” tweeted Aranock, an artist and computer scientist, on Nov. 8. The tweet received over 24,000 likes.
They weren’t alone. On Discord’s feedback section, users strongly opposed the platform integrating crypto, calling the idea “vile” and “extremely harmful.”.
The anti-crypto and NFT backlash jolted many in the web3 community who believe experimentation and innovation are what’s needed. “Wtf are we supposed to do against this kind of anti-crypto logic?” tweeted _trente_, who works at NFT curation protocol, JPG.
Soby Saqib, co-founder of Ex Populus, a web3 gaming company, was agog at how people were giving into their baser instincts. “How do we educate people on web3 / crypto?” he tweeted “How TF are the people this would benefit the most so against it?”
The donnybrook hits as NFT hype is going into overdrive. Not a week seems to go by when another $100M fundraising deal isn’t unveiled by the likes of a16z, Three Arrows, or the powerhouse crypto exchange FTX. To those in the space, the integration of blockchain-based capabilities into every facet of the internet seems like an inevitability, and a desirable one at that. So the wave of backlash knocked a lot of crypto proponents sideways, including Discord’s CEO.
No sooner had Citron made his pitch than he backtracked and tweeted that the company has no plans to ship the teased MetaMask integration. Still, his trial balloon ratcheted up the tension between pro and anti-crypto communities.
The debate accelerated in the days that followed. Vincent Van Dough, pseudonymous head of Starry Night Capital, an NFT fund, engaged in a trolling war with NFT detractors of the furry community.
“After watching @jasoncitron bend the knee to a misinformed mob, I felt it was time to draw some attention to the absurdity of the outright rejection of a technology that has changed countless artists’ lives for the better,” Vincent Van Dough tweeted.
The furry community was unbowed. Its members are known for working in IT and tend to commission artists directly for their work. Furry members are particularly skeptical of NFTs. This week, one of them urged artists to make sure others don’t resell their art as NFTs. “There’s people like this that can rip you off and make your art into a NFT,” tweeted Marzi. “Please be careful everyone.”
Vincent Van Dough’s battle with the furry community culminated in the collector selling an NFT with a background made up of many people in the furry community’s profile pictures. The winning bid? 20.35 ETH, or over $86,370 as of Nov. 17.
Not everyone was amused. “Some f*****d sold my profile pic as an NFT as part of a collage for nearly $100K,” tweeted one critic in an apparent response to Vincent Van Dough’s move. Foundation, where the NFT was listed, has taken it down due to a DCMA notice.
Needless to say, it’s been one of the most contentious cultural clashes crypto in some time. David Kaye , a game-builder and pioneer in digital asset purchases, says the fight isn’t necessarily unhealthy. He points out that Ethereum does use a lot of energy under proof-of-working mining and that some NFTs may be loosely described as a Ponzi scheme.
“The thing with these criticisms is that they’re not entirely unfounded,” Kaye told The Defiant. “There’s much more that we haven’t figured out than we have. I think that we would do well to listen to the skeptics and engage with them to the extent these are good faith and well-informed criticisms because we’ll all end up with better products at the end of it.”
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In addition to the furry members, Kaye believes that hardcore gamers also constitute a large portion of the anti-crypto community. Discord was originally built to help gamers coordinate in real-time. And those people still constitute a major part of Discord’s user base.
Plus, the gaming industry in particular has a history of fighting change. “There was a period where, for quite a long time, people really were pretty hostile to free-to-play and it was only once there were games that had really hit huge scale that were just undeniably real games by any metric, that that passed,” Kaye said.
Free-to-play games mean what the name suggests — they’re free to play, with features like in-game purchases or advertising driving revenue. Kaye also notes that gamers, one of Discord’s core user bases, are extremely online, leading to heightened backlash.
“If you’re hostile to begin with, you’re going to find a way to validate that,” said Kaye. The game developer went on to mention that the burgeoning NFT gaming community does have a habit of producing and selling NFTs with only a vague promise of future in-game use.
Aranock, who wrote the viral anti-NFT tweet, isn’t budging. “There is nothing unique, helpful or positive to be found in the NFT market that can’t be found without its problems elsewhere,” they told The Defiant in a message.
With both sides digging in, some in web3 simply hope to create blockchain-based versions of Discord. “Who’s building the web3 Discord?” tweeted Amy Wu, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. “Would love to chat.”